If someone claims the Philippine (Benham) Rise, the government will declare war against the claimant, a Cabinet official said on Wednesday.
“The Philippine Rise must be guarded. We will go to war if someone [not only China]will claim it, we will go to war with what we have, that’s the last resort,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said during the Kapihan sa Adriatico forum in Manila.
The government, according to Esperon, is considering the procurement of maritime survey vessels that will cost about P2.5 billion to identify resource-rich areas in the Philippine Rise.
Research in such areas will be done by “our scientists, from the University of the Philippines’ Maritime Science Institute… and other institutions or other science agencies,” he said.
Overall, however, marine scientific research in the Philippine Rise should be a “whole of the world” initiative since it would benefit the global population, Esperon added.
Such research, he said, should also be within the framework of an independent foreign policy.
The University of the Philippines’ Maritime Science Institute said during a recent Senate hearing that Chinese researchers explored by themselves the Philippine Rise despite their permit requiring them to conduct the activity in the presence of their Filipino counterparts.
The Philippine Rise or Benham Rise is a protected food supply exclusive zone located east of Dinapigue town in Isabela province on the country’s Luzon island.
Esperon said the Philippines would go on with its diplomatic engagements with China without compromising national interests especially in joint development and management of natural resources in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
He added that the diplomatic engagements would cover marine protected areas, marine peace parks and regional fishery management organizations, among others.